Short Édition , a France-based media corporation, has fused immediacy with our culture’s love of instant gratification with their creation of Short Story Stations, gaining impressive momentum around the world in the last few years. Instead of dispensing Walker’s crisps and bag of Maltesers, these machines distribute free one, three and five minute bouts of content at the press of a button, printing on eco-friendly papyrus paper scrolls similar to shopping receipts. Topics range from classic literature to children’s fiction, mystery to romance, poetry and even exclusively-curated short-form content. Familiar, classic authors such as Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens make an appearance as well.
Original stories are even being curated for the machine’s unique time constraints with English novelist Anthony Horowitz contributing a brand-new 60-second thriller designed to be finished between stations. “Here’s a whodunnit, complete with suspects and clues, that can be started and finished in just a minute,” Horowitz spoke of his short story.
In 2018, 30 machines were installed across the US. Already a success in France, Hong Kong and their newly-installed US locations, Short Édition took their creativity to commuter-laden London, where passersby can print stories as quickly as one can top up an Oyster card. These rhetoric robots are now being bought in impressive numbers by universities, libraries, airports and transportation hubs, such as the London Underground. In the city, Short Édition has installed its first three UK machines in London’s Canary Wharf, gaining impressive traffic as word catches on about the exciting new trend.
But what makes these machines such an entertaining notion?
Penguin Books attempted a similar concept in the 1930s, with the creation of its ‘Penguincubator’, a machine that offered inexpensive paperbacks to London customers. Inspiration may have been garnered from ideas such as this, but Short Édition are curating their content in a slightly different way: appealing to a culture that values immediacy and instant gratification, one that gravitates towards condensed articles over full-length novels, tweets over newspapers, and content optimized for a culture that is suffering from declining attention span rates. A recent study undertaken by Microsoft determined the average attention span has reduced from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2018. Short Édition has the desire to challenge other forms of fast media for the prize of our most important possession: time. And if the continued support and word-of-mouth concerning this endeavor is anything to go by, they’ve succeeded in more than just printing scraps of paper.
Short Édition is putting paper back in reader’s hands, even if it can be mistaken for a shopping receipt for Sainsbury’s. It’s an unexpected, fresh idea causing over 19 million reading units to be held over a smartphone since the machine’s inception and installation around the world. Many believe we still hold the desire to read books and become engrossed in long-form content, we are just simply bombarded by other temping options that require less time and focus, and furthermore encouraged by a culture that promotes this. But companies such as Short Édition continue to think creatively to ensure that desire has ways of staying alive.
London’s Short Story Stations can be found at the following address:
Jubilee Place & Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Written by Keaton Groves